BACK in 1972, a crazy Hungarian called László Tóth attacked Michelangelo’s famous Pietà with a hammer, but that act of vandalism, according to one very angry Italian, was small potatoes compared to an image recently shared on social media by the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) which featured a black Jesus.
Catholics, as well as secular art lovers, according Church Militant, have blasted the Vatican for “blasphemy, philistinism and race-baiting,” accusing the pontifical body of “manipulating art for politics”, ostensibly in support of “the Marxist Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.”
Drawing a parallel Tóth’s attack on Mary, which left her with broken nose and other “injuries”, the unnamed Italian is quoted as saying:
In comparison, László Tóth had done no damage.
Joseph Shaw, a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of Arts, told Church Militant that:
The manipulated image of one of the most famous pieces of religious art in the world is disturbing, and feels like an offense against the art, its creator, and those who love it as art and venerate it for its subject.
One of the beautiful realities of the Catholic Church is its incorporation of all cultures and peoples, with their artistic traditions. One can see devotional images of Christ and Our Lady from China, Egypt, Latin America and Northern Europe from every age of the Church.
But Shaw insists that this doctored Pietà:
Does not give that message of inclusivity and universality … Instead it appears to be a political statement, and a deliberately divisive one: one that even divides Christ from His Blessed Mother, from whom He took His human nature.
Devotional art should never be used for political ends: it cheapens and desacralises it and is an offense against God and His Saints who alone should be its subject.
PAL posted the “offensive” image with the words:
An image that is worth a speech.
Church Militant added that social media commenters linked the picture “with support for the anarchist, pro-abortion, pro-LGBTI, anti-family, anti-West” Black Lives Matter.
In comments to Church Militant, Dr Janice Fiamengo, above, an “avid follower of the anti-feminist movement” and former professor of English at the University of Ottawa, Canada, accused PAL of achieving the very opposite of what it had intended.
In presenting Mary as a white woman holding her black son, PAL could well be seen as perpetuating white supremacist norms, showing that white came before black, that black is not possible without white, and that white remains the great Mother of us all.
This may well be understood as an act of exterminationist othering for which the pontifical academy may need to do some deep soul-searching.
Church Militant is no pal of PAL, headed by Vincenzo Paglia. In July this year it carried a piece accusing the organisation of issuing an “atheistic” COVID-19 document that made no mention of God or Jesus. It quoted “popular author” Nick Donnelly as saying:
The Pontifical Academy for Life’s meditation on COVID-19 is a document worthy of the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche because as far as it is concerned, God is dead.
There is no mention of God, no mention of Our Lord, no mention of the Holy Spirit, no mention of the Kingdom. Instead, it even goes so far as to deny our origin as creatures of God and our supernatural destiny in Heaven with its Luciferian, nihilistic statement, ‘We emerge from a bbbnight of mysterious origins … Too late do we learn consent to the darkness from which we came, and to which we finally return.’
This Vatican document reads like a stream of babbling nonsense and blasphemous denial of God that could make you fear that the person [writing it] was possessed.